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Stephen Colbert, Saturday Night Live Poised to Steal the Show at 69th Emmys
September 11, 2017  | By Alex Strachan
 

The 2017 Emmy Awards will be here before you know it, on a wind and a prayer. And thanks to the climate of the times, figuratively and literally, television’s fall classic is poised to be notable as much for its politics — the host is Late Show frontman and political agitator Stephen Colbert — as the awards themselves.

With Saturday Night Live leading the field with 22 nominations, and with both Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon prohibitive favorites to win in their respective categories, this is one Emmy ceremony unlikely to go gently into the TV night.

Politics aside, this could be an intriguing year for the awards themselves. With past drama series winner Game of Thrones out of the mix this year and comedy perennial Veep having announced that next season will be its last, there are some tight races this time around. Monday-morning talking points won’t be limited to weather and politics, in other words. Thanks to the usual — some might say inevitable — shocks and surprises, viewers may well find time to talk about TV, and not just who said what about a certain national leader and the climate of the times.

To wit: The year’s seven drama-series nominees include five first-timers, from a field that includes broadcast, cable and streaming services.
Newcomer Westworld equalled SNL’s tally for the most nominations overall.

Westworld and SNL both took an early lead overall following the past weekend’s creative arts Emmys, with five Emmys apiece. Westworld won for its hairstyling, makeup, visual effects, and sound mixing, along with a special Emmy for interactive programming.

Westworld may be hard-pressed to add to those awards in the competitive, high-profile categories this weekend, however. The overall prize for most Emmys is likely to go to Saturday Night Live.

SNL won five Emmys this past weekend, and is considered a safer bet in comedy categories this weekend than Westworld is in a crowded field of competitive drama contenders.

SNL’s haul this past weekend included Emmys for Dave Chappelle (left, Guest Actor in a Comedy, for his turn hosting SNL) and recurring actress Melissa McCarthy (Guest Actress), for her impersonation of former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The coming weekend’s high-profile drama categories pit Westworld against a mixed field of genres that range from the relationship drama This Is Us to the Netflix costume drama The Crown. The dystopian science-fiction drama The Handmaid’s Tale can’t be discounted: Handmaid’s Tale won this past weekend for guest actress, Alexis Bledel. Meanwhile, This Is Us earned the guest actor award, for veteran Gerald McRaney, his first Emmy despite a long, storied career. Netflix’s charming, out-of-the-blue hit Stranger Things can’t be discounted, either.

The other drama series nominees, Better Call Saul and House of Cards, have never won, even though a strong case could be made for both.

As good as Westworld is, it seems unlikely to prevail in such a crowded, competitive field.

Drama Series is not alone. Many of the Emmy races are tight, and the outcome in several races will reflect Emmy voters’ tastes in ways perhaps no other recent Emmy ceremony has. (Recent rule changes have given more voting power to the TV academy’s rank-and-file and taken decision-making power away from some of the blue-ribbon panels of past years. That’s what opened the door last year for Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek and Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany to win in their respective lead actor and actress categories. In earlier years, actors in genre programs like Mr. Robot and Orphan Black would not have been seriously considered.)

Emmy perennial Veep landed 17 nominations overall — but look at the other programs at the top of the Emmys chart: Stranger Things and Feud: Bette and Joan earned 18 nominations apiece; Big Little Lies and Fargo scored 16; and The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Night Of scored 13 apiece. This Is Us, Genius, Planet Earth II, and Silicon Valley rounded out the list of programs to reach double figures in nominations: Better Call Saul, with nine mentions, would have made the list had Emmy voters noticed Michael McKean as a contender for drama supporting actor. (To my mind, McKean’s exclusion was the most egregious omission of this Emmy season.)

Here’s an early preview, then of the key races in the high-profile categories of drama, comedy, miniseries and late-night TV.

 

DRAMA SERIES

With Game of Thrones out of the mix and barring a major upset — “and the Emmy goes to . . .Vinyl!” —  it’s down to four frontrunners, any one of which could win. The smart money is on either The Crown or This Is Us (left), depending on who you talk to, with The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things poised to pull off the potential upset. Which program wins will say a lot about Emmy voters’ changing tastes. Interestingly, This Is Us is broadcast TV’s first serious shot at a drama Emmy since the years of Lost and, to a lesser extent, The Good Wife. The Crown, on the other hand, represents the epitome of Netflix: big budget, sprawling cast, overseas financing, and a world view — more cinema than TV. Westworld, despite racking up those 22 nominations overall — largely thanks to all those technical categories — is unlikely to make an impression here, even though I quite liked it more than others did.

Will win: This Is Us

Should win: The Handmaid’s Tale

 

DRAMA SERIES - LEAD ACTOR

Strong category, but one clear frontrunner has emerged in recent weeks, based on numerous Emmy polls: Sterling K. Brown, of This Is Us, with Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk still in the running for a come-from-behind win. There is still some sentiment for last year’s winner, Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek, but right now it looks like Brown’s year.

Will win: Sterling K. Brown

Should win: Sterling K. Brown


DRAMA SERIES - LEAD ACTRESS

There are two leading contenders at this point, and once again they could not be more different, both in terms of their roles and in terms of their acting styles. The Crown’s Claire Foy (right) — Netflix again — has already won a number of top honors, including the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. Don’t discount Elisabeth Moss, though, for her head-turning performance in The Handmaid’s Tale. Handmaid’s Tale was ineligible for some of those early-season awards, because of its airdate, but the series did land a pair of coveted Television Critics Association Awards last month, for outstanding drama series and program of the year.

Will win: Claire Foy

Should win: Elisabeth Moss


DRAMA SERIES - SUPPORTING ACTOR

John Lithgow just might be the closest thing there is to a sure thing in the entire ceremony, for his scenery-chewing, just-watch-me performance as Winston Churchill in The Crown. Personally, I find Lithgow to be the over-actor’s actor at the best of times, and I still find it beyond belief that Emmy voters somehow managed to overlook Better Call Saul’s Michael McKean entirely; McKean isn’t even nominated. Oh, well. It is what it is.

Will win: John Lithgow

Should win: Michael McKean, but since he isn’t nominated my vote would go to Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright.


DRAMA SERIES - SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The consensus seems to favor This Is Us’s Chrissy Metz, but a deep field of contenders points out just how many good roles there are for women on the small screen right now, much more so than in studio movies. Don’t discount Westworld’s Thandie Newton or Stranger Things’s Millie Bobby Brown. Stranger things have happened.

Will win: Chrissy Metz

Should win: Chrissy Metz


COMEDY SERIES

Possibly no category reflects TV’s fast-changing picture more than this one. As with drama, every nominee is deserving, but in recent weeks the race for the prize has come down to just two: Perennial winner Veep and sharp ’n sassy newcomer Atlanta — HBO vs. FX, tradition vs. serendipity, old-school TV vs. the new face of diversity in action. Once again, whichever one wins will tell us a lot about Emmy voters’ tastes and whether TV’s most traditional award is capable of changing with the times. Veep, which recently announced its next season will be its last, represents the old; Atlanta, with much of its future in front of it, represents the new.

Will win: Veep

Should win: Atlanta

 

COMEDY SERIES - LEAD ACTOR

Past winner Jeffrey Tambor is a sentimental favorite for Transparent, but this does look like a year when diversity will have its day: The smart money is on Atlanta’s Donald Glover, with black-ish’s Anthony Anderson close behind. TV comedy has hit a rich vein of form lately, thanks in large part to the emergence of shot-on-film comedies like Modern Family, and that’s doubly true for diversity. Norman Lear on his best day would have been proud to have backed either Atlanta or black-ish, and the two terrific lead actors are a big reason why.

Will win: Donald Glover

Should win: Anthony Anderson

 

COMEDY SERIES - LEAD ACTRESS

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won for Veep so many times this is practically a coronation. It’s a good thing, then, that she’s innately likeable, and refreshingly plain and honest. On a night that promises to be political, Dreyfus’ speech —  assuming one isn’t counting chickens before they’s hatched — is likely to be one of the more closely followed. Not to take away anything from the other nominees, Ellie Kemper has carved out her own separate identity after The Office, thanks to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Tracee Ellis Ross is a reminder that black-ish isn’t just about the men.

Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Should win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus

 

COMEDY SERIES - SUPPORTING ACTOR

The vote is rigged, Emmy ballots have been counted and paid for in advance, and if Alec Baldwin (left) doesn’t win for playing a certain national leader on Saturday Night Live, there are likely to be calls for congressional hearings. The only real question is whether Baldwin will accept in character or as himself. Either way, I can think of at least one detractor who won’t be happy: as a certain national leader tweeted last October: “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!” Well, there you have it, then.

Will win: Alec Baldwin

Should win: Alec Baldwin

 

COMEDY SERIES - SUPPORTING ACTRESS

What’s good for the goose is good for . . . well, Kate McKinnon. And not just because she played Hillary Clinton opposite the real Hillary Clinton in a memorable Saturday Night Live bar sketch, but because with each passing week it seems as if there is literally nothing McKinnon cannot do, no one she can’t mimic or play. McKinnon is a savant. At this point it really doesn’t matter to her or her career whether she’ll win or not. But she’ll win anyway.

Will win: KateMcKinnon

Should win: Kate McKinnon

 

LIMITED SERIES

It seems incredible to me that after such a stirring, breathtaking season, even by its own high standards, Fargo is the longest of long shots to win this time around, thanks to what’s shaping up to be a tight race between Big Little Lies and Feud: Bette and Joan. And to think that, not so long ago, the TV academy was thinking of retiring the category completely, or at least rolling it into the TV-movie category, because there just weren’t that many good miniseries around. And this doesn’t even begin to take into consideration fellow nominees The Night Of and American Crime.

Will win: Feud: Bette and Joan

Should win: Fargo

 

MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES - LEAD ACTOR

Robert De Niro is a lock for The Wizard of Lies (right), and not necessarily just because he’s De Niro: He kept his late-career mugging to a minimum in a surprisingly  nuanced — and thankfully — stripped-down performance as Bernie Madoff. There were some wonderful performances, though, from the other nominees: Riz Ahmed and John Turturro in The Night Of, Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein in Genius, Ewan McGregor in a double role in Fargo, and the always-reliable Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, even if the latest installment, The Lying Detective, was not one of Sherlock’s best.

Will win: Robert De Niro

Should win: Ewan McGregor

 

MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES - LEAD ACTRESS

Neck and neck, as they say, between Big Little Lies and Feud: Bette and Joan, with Lies’ Nicole Kidman holding the edge this time over Feud’s Jessica Lange. Feud has also landed Susan Sarandon on the nominees’ list, just as Lies found a place on the nominees’ list for Reese Witherspoon. Find a place in your heart, though, for Television Critics Association Award winner Carrie Coon, who was subtle, low-key and utterly convincing in Fargo. Would it be wrong to say Coon had by far the trickiest, most demanding part?

Will win: Nicole Kidman

Should win: Carrie Coon

 

MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES - SUPPORTING ACTOR

Feud: Bette and Joan looks to be the winner once again in a tight race with Big Little Lies, and Feud’s Alfred Molina seemingly holding the edge over Lies’s Alexander Skarsgard. Sherlock: The Lying Detective has two nominees here, Toby Jones and Martin Freeman, but neither seems poised to win. My personal choice — yes, Fargo again — would be David Thewlis, with a shout-out to Fargo’s Michael Stuhlberg, but alas they’re no more likely to break Feud’s streak than Sherlock’s Jones or Freeman.

Will win: Alfred Molina

Should win: David Thewlis

 

MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES - SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The feud between Big Little Lies and Feud: Bette and Joan is once again likely to be reflected here, with Feud’s Judy Davis holding a slight edge over Lies’ Laura Dern. Dern may pick up some spillover votes from her very different performance in Twin Peaks: The Return, but it does look like Davis’ time.

Will win: Judy Davis

Should win: Judy Davis

 

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

The fix is in, the vote is rigged, the ballots have been marked, counted and paid for in advance: This is Saturday Night Live’s race to lose. Which it won’t. It is worth noting who the other nominees are, though, since this is probably the last time you’ll see them mentioned in this context: Documentary Now, Tracey Ullmann’s Show, Drunk History and the always reliable Portlandia. Seriously, though, there’s only one real contender: Live from downtown Los Angeles, it’s Saturday Night Live!

Will win: Saturday Night Live

Should win: Saturday Night Live

 

VARIETY TALK SERIES

Saving if not the best, potentially the most interesting for last, Stephen Colbert could be placed in the awkward — awkward in a fun way — position of accepting an Emmy for Late Show with Stephen Colbert the very same night he’s hosting the show. Not being one to toot his own horn, in character or out of character, he’ll no doubt be embarrassed and momentarily at a loss for words. Colbert has never been good at telling the world how wonderful he is, or how many Emmys or Peabodys he’s won. It’s a funny thing, though. While his Late Show has had a very good year, owing to the political climate of the times, it’s hard not to have been wowed by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which has really found its voice of late, or been impressed by the way late-night lightweight Seth Meyers has seized on temper of the times and really brought it home on Late Night with Seth Meyers, in a way the better known, more heavily promoted Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon can only dream of. And then there’s Television Critics Association Award winner Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, not to mention a resurgent Late, Late Show with James Corden. These may be worrying times but this truly is a platinum age for late-night talk TV.

Will win: Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Should win: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

 
 
 
 
 
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