Top 10: Freshmen Series Looking for Emmy Love

Freshmen series had a banner year at the Emmys last year. “The Handmaid’s Tale” became the first series from a streaming network to win the top Series prize. The drama series category was majority new series, as five of the nominees were nominated for their first season – “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us“ and “Westworld.” The comedy front also embraced newcomers, as “Atlanta” reaped a Comedy Series nomination and won both Best Actor and Best Director.

Many new shows have exploded on the scene, winning both awards (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), acclaim (“Glow”) and ratings (“The Good Doctor” and “Young Sheldon”). Which will hit big with Emmys? We take a look at the shows most likely to win big with the leading TV awards group.

For the purposes of this article, we are not considering reboots, such as “Will and Grace” or “Roseanne” as they already have previous Emmy history.

  1. “The Last O.G.” (TBS)

TBS shows don’t often score at the Emmys. “The Last O.G.,” a comedy that follows a man reintegrating into society after an extended jail sentence, has a couple aces up its sleeve. Tracy Morgan already has two Emmy nominations to his name – one for “30 Rock” and another for hosting SNL. His SNL Emmy nomination came very recently for his first televised appearance after a terrible car accident. Goodwill could carry him to a nomination for this series. The other potential category would be Comedy Actress for Tiffany Haddish. Haddish was the breakout movie star of last year thanks to “Girls Trip.” Similar film momentum catapulted Melissa McCarthy to her first Emmy nomination and win for “Mike and Molly.”

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Comedy Actor (Tracy Morgan), Best Comedy Actress (Tiffany Haddish)

  1. “Trust” (FX)

The John Paul Getty kidnapping is having a moment right now. Reception for “Trust” has been mixed, at best. Still, mixed reviews didn’t keep “All the Money in the World,” Ridley Scott’s film about the Getty kidnapping, from awards. Donald Sutherland takes on the role that nabbed Christopher Plummer an Oscar this year. That performance, however, was buoyed by headlines about Plummer taking the role over for Kevin Spacey, who was cut from the project. Still, the role is baity enough that Sutherland could also contend for an award.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Drama Actor (Donald Sutherland)

  1. “Young Sheldon” (CBS)

Yes, CBS’s spinoff of “The Big Bang Theory” seems like an unlikely Emmy contender. The show tops the ratings each week for new programs. However, it isn’t the most critically acclaimed. Yet, one forgets how much the Emmys loves “The Big Bang Theory” and this character. Jim Parson possesses four Emmys for his role as the adult Sheldon. If goodwill for the character extends to the spin-off, Iain Armitage could be a surprise Best Comedy Actor nominee.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Comedy Actor (Iain Armitage)

  1. “Mindhunter” (Netflix)

People love true crime stories. Ryan Murphy has reaped multiple awards for “American Crime Story” anthology series. Netflix developed their own crime saga with “Mindhunter,” which follows those who studied the behavior of serial killers in the 70s. “Mindhunter” commanded a lot of online buzz when it first premiered. However, the chatter around it seems to have died down. This presents challenges for the show breaking into any of the major categories. However, actor Jonathan Groff has amassed a steady stable of characters from theater (“Spring Awakening”) and TV (“Looking”). If voters are fans and binged the series, they might want to give him their due. Those who love it may even opt to give it a Best Drama Series nomination.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Drama Series, Best Drama Actor (Jonathan Groff)

  1. “The Good Doctor” (ABC)

If ratings have any bearing on Emmys, then “The Good Doctor” could have a very strong tally. The show competes with “Young Sheldon” for highest rated new program week after week. Lead actor Freddie Highmore plays a wunderkind doctor whose autistic tendencies aid him in the surgical unit of his hospital. Highmore arguably possesses an Emmy IOU after constant snubs for his performance in “Bates Motel” as Norman Bates. If voters really love the popular show, they could also give “West Wing” alum Richard Schiff a Best Drama Supporting Actor nod. Even Best Drama Series could be a possibility if enough voters are consistently watching the show.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Drama Series, Best Drama Actor (Freddie Highmore), Best Drama Supporting Actor (Richard Schiff)

  1. “The Deuce” (HBO)

Never count out HBO when it comes to the Emmys. “The Deuce” delves into the porn world in the 70s and 80s. James Franco made headlines for playing dual twin characters. However, other headlines related to the “me too” movement, along with middling notices, give him less of a chance. If any actor is going to reap an Emmy nomination, it will be Golden Globe nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal. As prostitute turned filmmaker, Gyllenhaal emerges as best-in-show from the crowded ensemble. In many ways, “The Deuce” reminds one of “Boardwalk Empire,” another HBO show with an interesting Emmy track record. That show saw strong reviews and initial buzz for its recreation of another era and a strong pedigree. However, even as buzz waned, the show would always show up in the directing categories. The directing category may be the best chance for “The Deuce” at the Emmys.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Drama Series, Best Drama Actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Best Drama Directing

  1. “Smilf” (Showtime)

Emmys love a multi-hyphenate. Frankie Shaw writes, directs and stars in “Smilf,” which takes a comedic look at the challenges of a single mother. The show showed up at the Golden Globes, who notoriously love new shows. With Comedy Series and Comedy Actress nominations for Frankie Shaw, the small Showtime show saw its profile raise quite a bit. Showtime has had tremendous luck at the Emmys, particularly in the lead acting comedy categories. Toni Collette, Edie Falco, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy and Matt Leblanc have all earned nominations for their shows. Many of these nominations were lone nominations for the show. This could be the case for “Smilf,” unless Frankie Shaw is the Emmy’s latest darling, a la Lena Dunham or Donald Glover.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Comedy Series, Best Comedy Actress (Frankie Shaw), Best Comedy Writing

  1. “Ozark” (Netflix)

Critics and audiences binged “Ozark” when it premiered on Netflix in the summer. A financial advisor (Jason Bateman) relocates his family to the Ozarks in the wake of a sour relationship with the drug cartels. The show draws most of its acclaim from its lead actors. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney both were nominated at the SAG Awards. Bateman also picked up a nomination at the Golden Globes. Bateman plays against type, which creates a strong narrative. With four Emmy wins from five nominations, Linney is a favorite. The drama category appears to be lighter than comedy, in terms of new blood. If the show starts to pick up steam in other categories, it could be the prime candidate for a first season Drama Series nomination.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Drama Series, Best Drama Actor (Jason Bateman), Best Drama Actress (Laura Linney), Best Drama Writing

  1. “Glow” (Netflix)

Netflix had a runaway hit on its hands last summer with “Glow,” the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The show treads on 1980s nostalgia much in the way Emmys darling “Stranger Things” did last year. Lead star Alison Brie, as an actress turned wrestler, won nominations at both the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and SAG Awards. The Critics Choice also awarded Marc Maron and Betty Gilpin in the Supporting categories. Maron also showed up in the male acting category at the SAG Awards. With both “Veep” and “Master of None” out this year, there are slots left in the Comedy Series category. If the show pulls in Brie, Gilpin or Maron, it could also take one of those vacant Comedy Series slots. Having shown up in the SAG Ensemble race (the one show where “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” did not contend), the show stands a chance in the top category.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Comedy Series, Best Actress (Alison Brie), Best Supporting Actor (Marc Maron), Best Supporting Actress (Betty Gilpin)

  1. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

Few shows have picked up more awards this season than “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The Amazon original won both Best Comedy Series and Best Actress for Rachel Brosnahan from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice. The Critics Choice also nominated Alex Borstein in the Supporting Actress category. The show centers on Midge Maisel (Brosnahan), a Jewish housewife in the 1950s who has it all. That is until her husband reveals he’s been having an affair. Drunk and alone, Midge stumbles into the comedy club her husband performs in and nails it. With the help of the bartender, Susie (Borstein), an aspiring agent, the two of them try to defy gender stereotypes and take over the stand-up comedy world.

Amy Sherman-Palladino did not have much luck with “Gilmore Girls,” her previous hit series. Over seven seasons and a revival, the show only managed one craft nomination. Also, the Golden Globes are notorious for showering freshmen series with love, only for them to come up empty-handed at the Emmys (“Mozart in the Jungle,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”). However, Amazon has a proven track record with Emmys. With “Transparent” most likely dropping out of contention this year, Amazon will be pushing this hard. With the period pedigree, outstanding reviews and a slew of precursors, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” could be a real threat.

Best Shot at Nomination: Best Comedy Series, Best Comedy Actress (Rachel Brosnahan), Best Comedy Supporting Actress (Alex Borstein), Best Comedy Directing, Best Comedy Writing

What new show do you think will show up at the Emmys? Share with us in the comments below.

What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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