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).
Freeform is going all in on “grown-ish,” their lone submission in the comedy categories. The half hour comedy is a college-set spin-off of ABC’s “black-ish.” That show has seen considerable success with the Emmys. Lead Actor Anthony Anderson has been nominated for all four seasons of the show. It was able to earn Comedy Series and Lead Actress (Tracee Ellis Ross) nominations the past three consecutive years. “Grown-ish” stars Yara Shahidi as Zoey, Dre (Anderson) and Bow’s (Ross) oldest daughter who is now in college. Shahidi was a standout on “black-ish,” but never received a supporting actress nomination. She could compete in lead for “grown-ish,” up against Tracee Ellis Ross. While Ross is expected to return to the category, it’s unlikely Shahidi will join her.
Still, Freeform has submitted the show in a number of above the line categories in addition to Lead Actress for Shahidi. It also competes in Comedy Series and Supporting Actress (Francia Raisa). On top of that, Freeform submitted three episodes of the show for the respective Writing category. While these categories may seem like stretches, it is possible the show could sneak in to a few below-the-line nominations. The show is eligible for nominations in Production Design, Casting, Cinematography, Costumes and Sound Mixing.
Freeform’s best shot at Emmy glory in drama appears to be “The Bold Type.” The workplace dramedy competes for both season two and season three. Both seasons aired during Emmy’s eligibility period (6/1/18 – 5/31/19). In addition to Drama Series, one Directing entry and two Writing submissions, there are a number of actors on the ballot for the show. Only Katie Stevens appears in the Lead Actress category, while her best friends (and arguable co-leads) Aisha Dee and Meghann Fahy join former Emmy nominee Melora Hardin in the wide open Supporting Actress field. Stephen Conrad Moore, Sam Page and Matt Ward all submitted for Supporting Actor. Meanwhile, drag superstar Sasha Velour competes in Guest Actress in a Drama for her cameo.
“The Bold Type” stands its best chance in some of the craft categories, such as Casting, Costumes, Hairstyling and Music Supervision. It also hopes for Makeup (non-prosthetic) and Single Camera Picture Editing nominations (where two episodes are competing).
If the Emmys aren’t interested in Freeform’s original dramas, maybe they’ll fall for some well known intellectual property. The channel features a new Marvel series, “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger,” which they submitted somewhat widely on the ballot. Marvel shows have never received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. Yet, Netflix and ABC have both seen their Marvel shows nominated for Creative Arts categories such as Stunt Coordination (which “Luke Cage” won in 2017), Special Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Main Title Design, Original Main Title Theme Music and Music Composition. Of those categories, “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger” only submitted for Music Composition. Still, it has a shot at some of the other craft fields where it is on the ballot, such as Cinematography, Music supervision and Sound Mixing. The show’s series, directing, writing and acting bids seem like further stretches.
Likewise, the new spinoff “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” likely won’t be a major above-the-line player. The show appears on the ballot for Drama Series, Supporting Actress (Hayley Erin, Sydney Park) and Cinematography.
Freeform also features a couple of other drama programs up for Emmy consideration. “Good Trouble,” a spin-off of “The Fosters” (which never caught on for Emmy contention), competes in Drama Series and Supporting Actress categories for Zuri Adele and Sherry Cola. “Shadowhunters,” which ended this year, was submitted for Drama Series, Lead Actress (Katherine McNamara) and Supporting Actor (Harry Shum Jr.). Much like “Shadowhunters,” “Siren” is also only entered in above the line categories, such as Drama Series and Supporting Actor (Ian Verdun). The fact that Freeform isn’t submitting these in any technical categories speaks to their lack of confidence in these titles. “The Bold Type” and “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger” appear to be their main pushes going in to this Emmy season.
The drama and comedy categories are stacked with huge competitors, making it difficult for new networks to break in. Meanwhile, the Emmys honor a wide variety of mediums, no matter how tenuous their connection to “television” in general. Freeform counts themselves as one of eight submissions in the Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media Within A Scripted Program category. They compete for “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists Live Premiere Party.” With such little competition among the group, this may be how Freeform earns its first nomination.
AWARDS HISTORY AND PRECURSORS
Freeform has never been an Emmy player in the past. Even when it was ABC Family, the cable channel fell victim to a couple of Emmy prejudices. The channel’s primary targets from the get-go were families and teens. Even as the content has matured and the network rebranded, Freeform still carries that same “family” reputation for the Television Academy. Look no further than the CW, which has been unable to earn a Primetime Emmy nomination, despite top notch programming that has won Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards. In many ways, Freeform is the cable version of CW. This means it has CW’s teen bias, with none of the network TV perks.
THE NETWORK CONCLUSION
This year, Freeform’s bad luck may continue. However, that’s not for lack of trying. The network is leaning heavily into “grown-ish” and “The Bold Type,” both of which have grown into buzzy shows to take notice of. They won’t immediately break into the Primetime Emmy categories. Still, all it takes is a Costume or Production Design nomination to get Freeform on the board with the Emmys. Perhaps this year will be that year for the network.