Emmy Network Spotlight: Showtime Places All Bets on ‘Escape At Dannemora’

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Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing).  The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards. Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24.  The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).

COMEDY CONTENDERS

Showtime does exceedingly well in the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category. In the past, it has represented half the slots in the category (see 2014 when “Episodes,” “House of Lies” and “Shameless” all were nominees). This year, Showtime looks to take up to four of the six spots in Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. William H. Macy is the lone incumbent for the ninth season of “Shameless.” Macy has contended in this category for the past five years since “Shameless” made the jump from drama to comedy. One expects him to show up yet again. However, the buzz for the show’s ninth season has been light, and Macy has been mired in controversy surrounding his wife, Felicity Huffman, and the college admissions scandal. Other than Macy, “Shameless” has only ever received significant traction in Guest Acting for Joan Cusack. This year doesn’t look like the year it will break into new categories.

Three other new Showtime series enter the comedy races this year. “Black Monday” takes a comedic look at the Wall Street crash of 1987. The show received mixed reviews upon release. Don Cheadle is an Emmy favorite, having been the sole nominee for Showtime’s “House of Cards” for four consecutive years. He could quickly return to the Lead Actor in a Comedy category with “Black Monday.” Regina Hall, Andrew Rannells, and Paul Scheer are also looking for Emmy recognition.

Showtime’s other new comedy, “Kidding,” features more positive reviews and a unique pedigree. The show stars Jim Carrey as the host of a children’s show who struggles with his own mental health. Carrey was nominated for Lead Actor in a Comedy at the Golden Globes, while the show also competed for Best Comedy Series. The Golden Globes heavily favors new series. However, the show could break into Lead Actor and other craft categories thanks to Carrey’s high profile and a distinctive visual look. Frank Langella, Catherine Keener, and Judy Greer round out the cast in key supporting roles that could receive nominations if the Emmys really love the show.

Though the series competes in the Variety categories, Showtime hopes Sacha Baron Cohen can make it into the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category for his work on the sketch show “Who Is America?” Actors like Amy Schumer, Keegan Michael Key, and Sarah Silverman, among others, have received acting nominations for their work in sketch shows. However, “Who Is America” was not rapturously well-received. Cohen will have to make it in on name recognition alone and seems the least likely among Showtime’s leading men.

“SMILF” is also eligible for Emmys for its second season. The show sparked headlines when its showrunner and star, Frankie Shaw, was accused of misconduct on set. It’s unlikely it will finally make it into the Emmys for its second and final season.

DRAMA CONTENDERS

“Homeland” has long been Showtime’s best performer in the drama categories. Last year it was the only drama series to earn any Primetime Emmy nominations. However, the show’s eighth and final season doesn’t debut until late 2019. This makes it ineligible for awards this year. Will any Showtime drama pick up the mantle?

“Ray Donovan” once was a strong Emmy performer. In 2016, the series managed nominations for Outstanding Directing, Lead Actor (Liev Schreiber), Supporting Actor (Jon Voight) and Guest Actor (Hank Azaria, who won). The last time it received any nominations was in 2017 for Schreiber and Azaria. The sixth season of the show has not received any stronger reviews than normal for the show. It’s unlikely the show returns to the Emmys race unless they want to reward Susan Sarandon, new to the show, in the reasonably open Supporting Actress race.

Speaking of the Supporting Actress race, “The Affair” once was able to get Maura Tierney into that category back in 2016 for the show’s second season. The show dropped out of the race in 2017 for the third season. This past fourth season has rebounded, if only slightly. The episode “407” was nominated for the Writers Guild Award for Television Episodic: Drama. That episode primarily focuses on the perspective of Tierney’s character, Helen. Since a majority of last year’s Supporting Actress nominees are not eligible this year, Tierney could find herself back in the race.

“Billions,” “The Chi,” and “I’m Dying Up Here” all have never received Emmy nominations. “I’m Dying Up Here,” in particular, has been cancelled after its second season. It’s unlikely any of these shows will receive their first nominations this year.

LIMITED SERIES CONTENDERS

Of the three main series categories – Drama Series, Comedy Series, and Limited Series – Showtime stands the best chance of winning the Limited Series category. It only has one possible entry in this category, but it’s quite a doozy. “Escape at Dannemora” has already done quite well with precursor prizes. It received Limited Series nominations at the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes. Both times it lost to “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” which was only eligible at last year’s Emmys. “Escape at Dannemora” is also likely to show up in the directing category for Ben Stiller. He previously won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries or TV Movie.

Patricia Arquette won Lead Actress at both of those precursors, in addition to winning at the SAG Awards. She stands as the frontrunner of the category, but faces fierce competition from Michelle Williams in the late-breaking FX limited series “Fosse/Verdon.” Paul Dano and Benicio Del Toro both could be major players in the Lead Actor category. Eric Lange also stands a chance at sneaking into the Supporting Actor category, much like he did at the Critics Choice Awards. The sky is the limit in terms of awards potential for “Escape to Dannemora.” All eyes will be on whether “Escape to Dannemora,” “Fosse/Verdon,” “Sharp Objects” or something else is the nomination leader on Emmy morning.

VARIETY/DOCUMENTARY/ANIMATED CONTENDERS

Showtime also contends for a variety of other categories, including the Variety categories. Both “Who Is America” from Sacha Baron Cohen and “Desus & Maro,” Showtime’s late-night comedy, are submitting in the Variety Series fields.

The premium cable channel also features some nonfiction shows in search of Emmy nominations. “The Circus: Inside the Wildest Political Show on Earth” delves into the latest headlines related to today’s administration. In addition, “Just Another Immigrant” also competes in the same nonfiction categories. That show takes a look at comedian Romesh Ranganathan and his experiences as a new immigrant to the United States. On the documentary front, “American Dream/American Knightmare,” which chronicles the life of rapper Suge Knight, hopes to follow in the footsteps of Showtime’s other Emmy-winning documentaries, such as “This American Life” and “Years of Living Dangerously.”

Lastly, Showtime hopes “Our Cartoon President” will bring them their first nomination in the Animated Program category.

AWARDS HISTORY AND PRECURSORS

“Homeland” is the only series winner for Showtime. The first season of the Showtime drama won six awards, including Best Drama Series, Actor (Damien Lewis), Actress (Claire Danes) and Writing. Though it was able to add to its nomination count in season two, the show has yet to return to the Emmy heights of its first season. The first Showtime program to contend for the Drama Series prize was “Dexter” in 2008. “Dexter” competed in the category for four consecutive years. Much like “Dexter,” “Homeland” has also competed in the Drama Series race for four years. Other past Showtime dramas that have racked up Primetime Emmy nominations are “Huff” (which won Blythe Danner two awards), “Ray Donovan,” “Masters of Sex” and “The Affair.”

Showtime’s first brush with Comedy Series glory came when “Weeds” entered the category in 2010 for its fourth season. The show had previously received directing, writing and acting nominations. “Nurse Jackie” has been the only other Showtime show to make it into the Comedy Series race. Throughout its seven-season run, it won Emmys for both Edie Falco and Merritt Wever. For a time, Showtime ruled the Lead Actress in a Comedy Category. Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”) and Edie Falco won the category back to back in 2009-2010. Many thought Laura Linney would continue the trend in 2011 for “The Big C.” Unfortunately, she lost to “Mike & Molly’s” Melissa McCarthy. Linney would eventually win in 2013 for the show. However, it would be in the Miniseries category, since “The Big C” ended with a truncated season.

“Episodes,” “Shameless” and “House of Lies” were all regularly nominated in the Lead Actor in a Comedy category. “Shameless” was particularly interesting, as it shifted from Drama to Comedy in 2013. When in Drama, only Joan Cusack was the lone nominee in the Guest Actress category. Once the shift to Comedy was made, William H. Macy started to receive nominations, and Cusack even won.

The first success for Showtime at the Emmys came in the miniseries categories. Laura Linney won a Lead Actress in a Miniseries Emmy for her work in “Wild Iris” in 2002. By 2004, the one-two punch of “The Lion in Winter” and “The Reagans” in the TV Movie category announced Showtime as a major Emmy player. “Sleeper Cell” became the first Showtime show to receive a Best Miniseries nomination in 2006. Last year, Showtime saw an all-time high in terms of Miniseries nominations. “Patrick Melrose” contended for Best Miniseries, Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Directing and Writing. In addition, Showtime’s revival of “Twin Peaks” earned nine nominations, including Directing and Writing.

Showtime has also been a player in the documentary and a variety of special races. Both “This American Life” and “Years of Living Dangerously” won Documentary prizes. Meanwhile, “Penn & Teller: Bullsh!t” received reality show nominations for four consecutive years. Finally, Dave Chappelle’s 2005 “For What It’s Worth” special and Stephen Colbert’s Live 2016 Election Coverage both were nominated for Outstanding Variety Special.

THE NETWORK CONCLUSION

Showtime’s Emmy chances rest on the performance of “Escape at Dannemora.” The limited series hopes to win should the series receive its nomination, as well as Directing and Lead Actress for Patricia Arquette. It is the frontrunner for the network, but not without significant competition within the category. The series will need to pull together a healthy amount of acting, writing and below the line nominations to remain a major player.

In the comedy field, the Lead Actor in a Comedy race will be the only play that Showtime contends. Our best bet is that Cheadle and Carrey receive nominations in the category. It seems unlikely that any of their shows will receive any other Primetime Emmy nominations. 

Things look even darker on the drama front. Only “The Affair” stands a chance at representing the premium cable channel. Significant campaigning will be needed to get Maura Tierney back into the Supporting Actress field. However, this season gives her the goods to earn a nomination, and the Writers Guild proves people are still watching. Meanwhile, “Ray Donovan” feels like a show even its fans have forgotten.

What do you think of Showtime’s chances at the Emmys? Share with us in the comments below.

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