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).
As the awards season for television gears up, with networks positioning the series, performers, and crafts teams for recognition, it feels like a foregone conclusion that HBO is walking away with the top prize for its hit show “Game of Thrones.” With its eighth, and final season finally underway (premiering this past Sunday to record-breaking numbers), the show walks through the door a presumptive favorite to win it all.
It’s last three seasons have resulted with the top prize at the Emmys, even with a year off in 2017 where Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” emerged victoriously. Before “GOT” started dominating the awards circuit, HBO’s track record was already showing strength with five consecutive top prize wins from 2007 to 2011. This year, with lots of love presumed to go around in terminating seasons, it’ll be interesting to see what the Television Academy decides to embrace.
Saying “goodbye” is always difficult but that doesn’t always guarantee trophies. This year, we’re saying farewell to Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the tentpole for streaming services making awards plays. Staying afloat the Kevin Spacey debacle, the exit of the show may not have been as sweet or climatic as fans would have liked, but respect and adoration bleed in the industry, especially for likely acting contenders Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, and Greg Kinnear.
The aforementioned “Game of Thrones” will suck up lots of the oxygen in the room but it should be noted that the network played a great, what we like to call “Next In Line” strategy. This is when a show dominates the Emmy awards for many years (see: “The West Wing,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad”), and there’s usually a show that bubbles in the second place arena for many of those years. This leaves the feeling within the industry standard that when that “dominator” finally exits, that particular show will now become the new shiny toy until its finale.
Showtime is well-prepared to remind the world about how great “The Affair” was from beginning to end. Hoping to emulate “The Americans” late-breaking awards strategy, the final season may break into more categories than pundits may suspect.
The Emmys are very “highbrow” in what their choices are, but many programs have devoted fans, and are worth mentioning, despite not many of them not being eligible due to release dates. Those include Syfy’s “12 Monkeys,” BET’s “Being Mary Jane,” FOX’s “Gotham,” The CW’s “iZombie,” TNT’s “The Last Ship,” CMT’s “Nashville,” NBC’s “Shades of Blue,” and Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.”
THE “SENTIMENTAL” STRATEGY
Some of the networks may be seeing this year as a “loss” already but what they need to focus on is the long game. In 2015, “Game of Thrones” scored its first Drama series win after the departure of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” In its final season, “Mad Men” was likely the spoiler in the run, so this doesn’t present any tangible validity to the argument.
In 2016, the “sentimental” cards were being played hard for “Downton Abbey,” which ended up failing while “Better Call Saul” and “House of Cards” were waving feverishly to be declared “next.”
2017’s year off for “Game of Thrones” due to shooting schedules, the “Freshman Fire” gave birth to a win for “The Handmaid’s Tale” with four other first season shows behind it. In analyzing 2018, “The Americans” played “sentiment” which helped in a surprise win for star Matthew Rhys.
The voting group doesn’t care about feeling “obligated” to reward something audiences love, which should give HBO the juice needed to NOT take their foot off the pedal (not that they were going to). We’ve seen series, many considered to be the “best of all-time” exit without any love (i.e., “Friday Night Lights” and “Lost”) during its final run. This is also assuming that the end of “GOT” lands to the delight of the fans. Look at something like the mini-series “The Night Of,” which arguably has one of the best first seven episodes of any mini-series this decade, and insert the final episode variable, and it derails everything that preceded it.
Emmys LOVE their new shows. ABC’s “Lost,” Showtime’s “Homeland,” and CBS’ “Picket Fences” all won the drama prize in their inaugural seasons against defending or exiting champions.
Amazon Prime will be pushing Julia Roberts’ acclaimed vehicle “Homecoming” with all their might while BBC will present a compelling case for rewarding their crime hit, “Bodyguard.” Both have found luck in the early precursors like Golden Globes and SAG, but they will have some other stiff competition.
HBO will be juggling their final seasons of “GOT” and “Veep” but they will also have Adam McKay’s DGA winner “Succession,” likely to garner a lot of love from the group but will there be enough room in the mix for it?
FX’s “Pose” is going to have support to do serious damage, inserting itself as a dark horse candidate while Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” will hope for more than below-the-line mentions.
Extra new bits like “The Village,” “Hanna,” “Mr. Mercedes,” “The First,” “Sorry for Your Loss,” “Yellowstone,” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” is looking for cracks to slip through.
THE “NEXT IN LINE” STRATEGY
Who takes the mantle in 2020? That’s what every network needs to ask themselves, and they need to be playing the long game. The perfect candidate for next year…NBC’s “This is Us.” The show has shown enormous strength with wins for Sterling K. Brown but has struggled for the proper recognition it deserves in categories like writing and in particular, Mandy Moore. Garnering double-digit mentions this year, in one of its most active seasons yet, will have them present a compelling case for 2020, pending any new, undeniable toy on the beat. And who knows? Maybe the show is energetic even for a 2019 upset.
AMC’s “Better Call Saul” may have room in this same boat, as its returning after a one-year hiatus. Bob Odenkirk, who has played this beloved role over two series, has never won an Emmy for acting (he won 2 writing awards for “Saturday Night Live” and “The Ben Stiller Show”). Often times, that love can move upward.
Starz is hoping to position “Outlander” as the show that can fill your “GOT-shaped” hole after its ending and they continue to do better and better every year with awards notices. Is this their year to finally break through largely? What about Netflix’s “Ozark?” Is there enough “there-there” to warrant a future win?
The buzz is also building for BBC’s “Killing Eve,” which many pundits, including AwardsCircuit, have as the #2 in the Drama field. Can this outdo “Orphan Black” during its run? Showtime also has immense faith in “Billions” and what it will be able to achieve not just this year, but beyond. Watch out for surprise inclusions along the nomination morning.
You can look around to other shows such as “The Good Doctor,” “The Good Fight,” and “American Gods” but the road will be long and treacherous for them to emerge in this crowded field.
GUESS THEY’RE CONTENDERS?
Well…every show has its fans, and there’s going to be palpable noise in a few nooks and crannies of the internet.
You’ll hear the noise for “Orange is the New Black,” preparing for its send-off next year while “Doctor Who” has #TVTwitter declaring it a “sure thing.”
And don’t count out all the “Trekkies” doing their best to remind the Academy of “Star Trek: Discovery” or the “Shondaland” crew pushing “Grey’s Anatomy” in the mix.
CURRENT BEST TELEVISION SERIES (DRAMA) PREDICTIONS
- “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
- “This Is Us” (NBC)
- “Succession” (HBO)
- “Homecoming” (Amazon Prime)
- “Better Call Saul” (AMC)
- “Pose” (FX)
- “Killing Eve” (BBC)