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From Refreshing Newcomers to Very Important Drama, Here’s an Early Look at This Year’s Contenders for the Emmy Nominations
July 10, 2017  | By Alex Strachan  | 1 comment
 

There are just two things you need to know about the Emmys this year.

There will be a new winner of outstanding drama series — arguably the Emmys’ most high-profile award — as Game of Thrones is ineligible for consideration this year.
 
Secondly, the whole issue of eligibility is likely to confuse even more casual viewers than it normally does.
 
Shows you might think are eligible are not. And others you thought you were eligible last year are eligible this year instead.
 
In a time when it’s hard to know when the TV season begins and ends — let alone the emergence of streaming services that release entire seasons on one day — Emmy confusion rules supreme.
 
Here’s just one example. One of the summer’s most talked about conversation starters, Twin Peaks: The Return (left), is ineligible for this season’s awards because — get this — Showtime would have had to release more than half Twin Peaks’ 18 episodes before May 31. That would have been a nifty trick, as David Lynch’s trippy, deliberately obtuse drama didn’t debut until May 21.
 
On the other hand, HBO’s The Night Of is eligible — and deservedly so, at least from a creative point-of-view — even though most viewers who saw it may have forgotten it by now. The Night Of aired so long ago — it ran from June 24 last year to July 10 — that most viewers probably have a hard time separating it from The People v. O.J. Simpson.
 
Didn’t The People v. O.J. Simpson, win last year, viewers might well be asking themselves. Well, yes it did, as a matter of fact. It may be hard to remember now, but FX aired The People v. O.J. from February through April last year; The Night Of bowed on HBO mere weeks after O.J. ended.
 
Meanwhile, the summer’s other much-talked-about conversation starter, The Handmaid’s Tale, is eligible, albeit in the crowded drama series category, rather than limited series. To-mayto, to-mahto.
 
Confusion over what is and is not eligible is understandable, if annoying, because the TV Academy established its eligibility rules back in the days of black-and-white TV and live variety telethons. The system was based on the traditional September-to-May TV season.
 
TV has changed dramatically in the past ten years, though, not just with the advent of cable and shortened seasons but with streaming services’ one-day/one-season release.
 
The Emmy telecast has become ratings-challenged in recent years — a fancy way of saying fewer viewers are tuning in — in part because it’s so hard to follow. It’s still the big show on the night but the days when “TV’s biggest night” was one of the TV events of the year are long passed. When more casual viewers are familiar with, say, The Big Bang Theory than, say, Transparent, is it any wonder the Emmys have lost their sheen?
 
Future TV historians will still look back at the Emmys — for now — as being the gold standard of any given era. The great TV dramas of both the distant and not-so-distant past have been recorded for Emmy posterity, after all — everything from Hill Street Blues and ER to The West Wing (above) and The Sopranos.
 
As audiences continue to splinter and viewing options continue to multiply, it becomes increasingly hard for the big one-size-fits-all award ceremonies to keep up. That’s one reason why the Peabodys, which aren’t tied down by any hard-wired set of rules of what’s eligible and what isn’t, are arguably gaining in influence, while interest in the Emmys wanes.
 
As TV’s picture becomes messier and harder to follow, even for industry insiders, the Emmys are torn between keeping it simple and keeping up with changing times.
 
That said, there are still reasons to watch — for now. With Game of Thrones out of the game this time, this is one year when you won’t hear the same old complaining that the same shows keep winning.
 
Here, then, are the major talking points in the key categories of drama, comedy and limited series.
 
The nominations will be announced early Thursday. The award ceremony itself is Sept. 17 (CBS), with awards in technical categories handed out over the previous weekend.
 
Emmy Predictions 2017: Outstanding Drama Series
 
What a year! The Americans and Better Call Saul are richly deserving of the attention that otherwise escaped them in the relentless wave of plaudits for Game of Thrones. Both Americans and Saul will be nominated, and they deserve to be.
 
Forced to choose between them — a decision Emmy voters will have to make for Sept. 17 — I would go with Saul, if only because it had an outstanding, series-defining season, thanks to a tour-de-force performance by Michael McKean, whereas Americans, which I’ve much admired in the past, had a slightly off season, for me.
 
That’s just me, though; I know some viewers who feel just as strongly that The Americans featured some of its finest hours this past season.
 
What’s truly remarkable about the year’s drama contenders, though, is the heady list of deserving newcomers. The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, This Is Us, Westworld, even The Good Fight could argue the case for an entire category of their own — outstanding new drama series.
 
Of these, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Handmaid’s Tale will be the big story, though, if only because it’s managed to escape the burden — and it is a burden — of wearing the label of Very Important Drama.
 
Game of Thrones’ absence this year means there will be many more contenders from other dramas in the creative, technical categories. That can only be good for the industry, as there is some truly creative, refined work being done in terms of cinematography, costumes, editing, set design, sound, music, visual effects and any number of other technical categories that only add to the audience’s enjoyment of TV dramas.

Likely nominees:
 
The Americans
Better Call Saul
The Crown
The Handmaid’s Tale
Homeland
House of Cards
This Is Us
 
In with an outside chance:
 
13 Reasons Why
The Good Fight
The Leftovers
Ray Donovan
Stranger Things
 
Emmy Predictions 2017: Outstanding Comedy Series

The big talking point is likely to be a tussle between rap-happy newcomer Atlanta and Emmy perennial Veep, two very different and hard-to-compare comedies that reflect very different comic sensibilities.
 
The political satire Veep had to deal with the intrusion of real-life politics  — don’t you just hate it when that happens? — and somehow try to remain relevant, and still be funny, while actual real-world politics threatened to redefine the true meaning of the word satire.
 
Veep is popular with Emmy voters, and recent history tells us that can be a deal breaker where actual awards are concerned. Veep is the safe pick, and it’s hard to pick apart a series that improved on its previous season — a season in which it still won the Emmy.

Newcomer Atlanta (left) is a breath of fresh air, however. Just a few short years ago Donald Glover’s witty, sharp-round-the-edges look at Atlanta’s rap scene would’ve been a tough sell even to make it to air, let alone win plaudits — Atlanta already won this year’s Golden Globe for comedy series — and audience admirers.
 
There may be a sense among Emmy voters that Veep has been fêted enough, in which case Atlanta ticks all the boxes of being a contender Emmy voters can rally around and be seen to be hip and culturally aware at the same time.
 
Likely nominees:
 
Atlanta
black-ish
Master of None
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Transparent
Veep

In with an outside chance:
 
The Big Bang Theory
Insecure
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
 
Emmy Predictions 2017: Outstanding Limited Series
 
How much has quality TV changed in just the past ten years? Consider: In both 2009 and ’10 just two miniseries were nominated. The lack of decent candidates prompted the TV Academy to merge miniseries and TV movie into a single category, which caused no end of confusion, especially in acting categories. Thankfully, like lame spinoffs of Friends, that trend didn’t last.

If the recent past means anything — and it doesn’t always, in this category — expect to see American Horror Story rack up the lion’s share of nominations Thursday, thanks to the technical categories, but not actually win much when the awards are handed out on Sept. 17.
 
That’s because of a strong field of contenders that features both socially conscious stories and genuinely dazzling creativity. Fargo (above) managed to be both whimsical and charming while remaining heartfelt and profound. The Night Of, on the other hand, was both timely and topical, and downright harrowing at times. And ABC’s American Crime once again proved that the commercial broadcast networks don’t necessarily have to troll in stupidity and the lowest common denominator to appeal to a broad-minded audience.

Likely nominees:
 
American Crime
Big Little Lies
Fargo
Feud: Bette & Joan
The Night Of

In with an outside chance:
 
American Horror Story: Roanoke
Genius
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Mark N
thanks for this opportunity to nominate David Thewlis for his Fargo turn as V.M. Varga...a rare and wonderfully toothy character take
Jul 12, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
 
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