Emmy Network Spotlight: Starz Doubles Down on Historical Drama

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

Starz is not traditionally a network that invests heavily in comedic programming. Although there have been a few highlights in the past that showed promise (“Party Down” is a prime example), they’ve never received much attention during awards season.

Currently, its only comedic offering is “Now Apocalypse”, a show about sex, love, fame, and the end of times. Although it has received generally positive reviews in its first season, it’s suffered from poor promotion and has yet to find an audience, making it a considerable long shot for the Emmys this year.

DRAMA CONTENDERS

Over the past several years, Starz has put in serious work to develop a roster of original shows to compete with their fellow cable networks. Although they don’t have a wide array of shows to their name (the 2018-19 season, for example, features just seven programs), there are a few that have caught on with audiences, particularly “Outlander” and “American Gods.” The series’ popularity hasn’t led to a surge of attention from the Emmys, though, where Starz lags far behind its premium cable counterparts, HBO and Showtime.

“Outlander” finished its fourth season in January and has already been renewed for a fifth and sixth. Although it experienced a slight drop in viewership last season, Starz is clearly incredibly committed to its steamy historical hit. “Outlander” stands a decent chance of receiving a nomination for costumes or production design, as it has in both 2016 and 2018, but the main categories seem largely out of reach.

“American Gods” has done well with audiences and critics alike, and Starz renewed the fantasy series for a third season only days after the premiere of the second. Although it has been frequently praised for its acting performances, particularly Ian McShane in the memorable role of Mr. Wednesday, there hasn’t been any significant buzz that would suggest he may be looking at a nomination for his work here. That doesn’t mean that “American Gods” will go home empty-handed, though: keep an eye on it to potentially receive attention in the field of special visual effects.

The other opportunity Starz has at Emmys success is with “The Spanish Princess”, a miniseries detailing the courtship of Catherine of Aragon and King Henry VIII. This show continues the historical narrative of English royalty where “The White Princess” and “The White Queen” left off. While “The White Queen” is one of the shows that has come the closest to netting Starz a major Emmy (it was nominated for Outstanding Miniseries back in 2014), “The White Princess” didn’t receive a single nomination, so it’s difficult to say in which direction Emmy voters will lean with “The Spanish Princess.”

As for the rest of the Starz lineup, “Power,” “Sweetbitter,” and “Vida”, they suffer from a lack of name recognition that will likely leave them dead in the water this Emmys season. With such a highly competitive field, they don’t stand much of a chance.

AWARDS HISTORY AND PRECURSORS

Despite the domination of television awards season by premium cable, Starz’s transition to original programming has been a rocky one that has yielded few results in terms of awards recognition. Their greatest successes so far have been historical dramas and romances such as “Outlander,” “The Pillars of the Earth,” “Black Sails,” and “The White Queen”. The frothy, sumptuousness of these shows has earned them a niche fanbase, but rarely bears fruit when the Emmys roll around.

To date, Starz has received 34 Creative Arts Emmy nominations, winning five times. “Black Sails” won twice for Outstanding Sound Editing and once for Outstanding Special Visual Effects, “The Pillars of the Earth” won for Outstanding Sound Editing, and “Da Vinci’s Demons” won for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music and Outstanding Main Title Design.

But the network has largely been boxed out of the Primetime Emmys, having only been nominated for a major award there on three occasions. “The Pillars of the Earth” and “The White Queen” were nominated for Outstanding Miniseries in 2011 and 2014, respectively, and in 2015 “The Missing” received a nomination for Best Directing in a Drama Series. They’ve yet to win a single award at the Primetime Emmys.

THE NETWORK CONCLUSION

With the current crop of shows on Starz, the network seems destined for another year of disappointment when it comes to the Primetime Emmy Awards. They have a few legitimately good programs, but none have the impact that will allow them to compete with the powerhouses that some of the other networks are heavily promoting. Look for Starz to get a handful of Creative Arts Emmys in costuming, hairstyling, or visual effects, and maybe even win one of them. But that seems to be as much as anyone could hope for.

What do you think of Starz’s chances at the Emmys? Let us know in the comments.

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