Emmy Network Spotlight: Can ‘This Is Us’ Win NBC Another Drama Series Emmy?

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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

NBC hopes “The Good Place” will see its Emmy prospects improve. After being shut out of the major articles in season one, both Ted Danson and Maya Rudolph earned acting nominations in Comedy Actor and Guest Actress, respectively. Season three of the comedy has been more erratic. Still, the highs of the season make the show competitive in a variety of categories. The episode “Janet(s),” for example, could earn the show Directing and Writing nominations, on top of a Supporting Actress nomination for D’arcy Carden. Since the Emmys are slower to reward certain shows, “The Good Place” could be a major Comedy Series contender if it significantly increases its nomination tally in other fields.

Last season’s big question mark was around reboots. While shows like “Will & Grace” dominated the Emmys in the past, their reboots didn’t enjoy the same spoils. Season one of the “Will & Grace” reboot only received nominations for Megan Mullally in Supporting Actress in the primetime categories. The show won for Cinematography and Editing, while Molly Shannon also showed up in the Guest Actress category. It’s possible the show repeats the same nominations this year. Yet, the buzz on the reboot has waned and it would be shocking to see its nomination tally improve.

While not exactly a new show, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is new to NBC. The former FOX program made the move for its sixth season. After its first season won big at the Golden Globes, it has only performed modestly at the Emmys. Andre Braugher earned three consecutive nominations for his role as the taciturn Captain Holt. He hasn’t been back in the category since 2016. Unfortunately, it looks as if the Emmys have passed on from him. However, Sterling K. Brown snagged a surprise Guest Actor nomination last year, proving Emmy voters are still watching the show. Another critical favorite, “Superstore,” thinks this year will be the first to earn it an Emmy nomination. It’s hard to break through after five seasons. Yet, supporting actor Nico Santos was able to show up at the Critics Choice Awards.

The following shows have been submitted for Emmys, despite being cancelled. This includes “A.P. Bio,” “Abby’s,” “I Feel Bad” and “Marlon.”

DRAMA CONTENDERS

NBC’s biggest awards player has been “This Is Us” over the past two years. When it earned a Drama Series nomination in 2017, it became the first network show to do so since “The Good Wife” in 2011. NBC had not had a Drama Series nominee since “Heroes” in 2007. In total, “This Is Us” has earned eighteen nominations and three wins, all coming from acting categories. Sterling K. Brown and Gerald McRaney won Lead Actor and Guest Actor, respectively, in 2017. Last year, Ron Cephas Jones beat McRaney for the Guest Actor prize. This year, the show hopes to not only receive a slew of acting nominations but also earn its first directing and writing nominations. Additionally, with a less competitive Drama Series race this year, “This Is Us” could be a real player for the big win.

NBC’s vast stable of dramas is looking to earn Emmy nominations as well. New shows like “Manifest” and “New Amsterdam” did well at the ratings, but don’t seem to have the acclaim to translate to Emmys. Unfortunately, shows like “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D” and “Good Girls” are still looking for their first nominations. Both “The Blacklist” and “Blindspot” usually only compete in the Stunt Coordination category (which “The Blacklist” won in 2014). Alan Alda pulled off a surprise Guest Actor nomination for “The Blacklist” in 2015, but the show has shown no other signs of life besides that. At one point in time, “Law & Order: SVU” won at least one acting category for six years straight (2005 – 2010). Those times seem to be pretty long gone, with Mariska Hargitay being the last nominee for the show back in 2011.

A list of NBC’s cancelled shows includes “Midnight Texas,” “The Enemy Within,” “The Village” and “Timeless.”

VARIETY CONTENDERS

The political relevance of “Saturday Night Live” has translated into a resurged Emmy presence recently. The show has made creator/executive producer Lorne Michaels the most nominated person of all time, with 82 nominations. In total, the show has received 252 nominations over the past four decades. Last year it earned 21 nominations, including four supporting nominations (Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Leslie Jones, Kenan Thompson). The past two years it has also won Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series, an award it hadn’t won since 1993. It hopes to pull off a hat trick with its third consecutive win in the category this year.

The other category where “Saturday Night Live” typically earns many nominations is in guest acting, where hosts can submit their performances. This year, “Saturday Night Live” submitted the following hosts: Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Robert DeNiro, Adam Driver, Idris Elba, Seth Meyers, Jason Momoa, John Mulaney, Paul Rudd, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Awkwafina, Rachel Brosnahan, Halsey, Sandra Oh and Emma Thompson. Usually, two hosts get into each guest category. Assuming that, Mulaney, Sandler, Brosnahan and Oh stand the best chance, with DeNiro and Thompson close behind.

On the Variety Talk front, “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” hopes to make it back into the category. Fallon’s tenure of “The Tonight Show” received three nominations in the category from 2014 – 2016. Meanwhile, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” has yet to compete in the Variety Talk series. It has been nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series the past two years. The show hopes to increase this nomination tally this year. NBC also has “Last Call with Carson Daly” competing in this category, though Fallon and Meyers are their bigger pushes.

REALITY CONTENDERS

The Reality Competition category looks pretty stacked for NBC. The network has submitted eight different programs to compete in the category. “The Voice” seems best poised to return to the category. The show has been nominated seven consecutive times, winning four times (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017). This year it hopes it can dethrone “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which won this category for the first time last year. NBC’s only other eligible prior nominee in this category has been “American Ninja Warrior,” which received nominations the past three years (2016 – 2018). Other Reality Competition submissions include “America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” “Ellen’s Game of Games,” “Hollywood Game Night,” “Making It,” “The Titan Games” and “World of Dance.”

NBC’s star-studded cast of reality hosts might make an even bigger splash in the Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Competition Program category. Past nominees from NBC include Jane Lynch (winner in 2014 & 2015 for “Hollywood Game Night”) and Ellen DeGeneres (“Ellen’s Game of Games”). Both women should return again this year to compete against reigning champion RuPaul Charles from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (winner 2016 – 2018). NBC has also roped in some more A-list talent to host their shows, including Dwayne Johnson (“The Titan Games”) and Nick Offerman & Amy Poehler competing as one (“Making It”).

SPECIALS

The Golden Globe Awards have done very well in the Outstanding Variety Special (Live) category. They first contended in the category in 2007, losing to the Tony Awards. This decade, the Golden Globes have been nominated seven out of the past nine years, only missing out in 2010 and 2017. They have yet to win the category; however, since the Tony Awards had a poorer showing recently, this could be the time for the Golden Globes to shine.

NBC also hopes some of their music specials can contend in the Variety Special categories, such as “Bublé!” and “Pentatonix: A Not So Silent Night.” Jimmy Fallon also wants to add Variety Special to his Emmy mantle. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Desde Puerto Rico” will compete in the Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) category. It will also compete against NBC’s “Red Nose Day Special” in this category.

AWARDS HISTORY AND PRECURSORS

NBC started on a roll when it won the first Comedy Series award in 1952 for “The Red Skelton Show.” Since then, it has been the leader in comedy awards, winning twenty-six Comedy Series awards over the category’s history. Some of the legendary NBC winners of this category include “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Get Smart,” “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “The Golden Girls,” “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” “Will & Grace,” “Friends,” “The Office,” and “30 Rock” (the most recent winner, from 2007-2009). “Frasier,” in particular, broke records with its five Comedy Series wins, a record that “Modern Family” tied in 2015. In 1987, NBC made up the entirety of the Outstanding Comedy Series category, with “The Golden Girls” winning over “Cheers,” “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” and “Night Court.”

The network saw similar domination on the Drama front as well. NBC racked up 21 wins in the Drama Series category with classic shows like “Dragnet,” “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” “ER,” “Law & Order,” and “The West Wing.” Three of these shows (“Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” “The West Wing”) have four wins apiece, the record in the Drama Series category. This ties them with AMC’s “Mad Men,” the most recent show to achieve this feat.

NBC is tied for the most Limited Series award wins with PBS (both at 10 wins). The majority of these wins came during the 80s (“The Murder of Mary Phagan,” “A Year in the Life,” “Peter the Great,” “Marco Polo, “Shogun”). NBC hasn’t contended in the category since 1999, when “The ‘60s” and “The Temptations” both lost to “Horatio Hornblower” on A&E. Last year, it tried to re-enter the conversation with “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders,” but it only received a lead actress nomination for Edie Falco.

THE NETWORK CONCLUSION

NBC continues to further its long legacy of Emmy domination. Of any of the big four networks, it stands the best chance to take a Series trophy home (thanks “This Is Us”). It’s next biggest player continues to be “Saturday Night Live,” which should lead nominations for the network. Only “The Good Place” and “Will & Grace” have shots at receiving major nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards. Finally, its glut of reality show contenders will help get one or two in the Reality Competition category, while the Golden Globes may be their lone special to compete.

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

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